It's a tricky and challenging time for us all during Covid-19 lockdown, we are limited to walking our dogs only once a day and many people don't have the luxury of a garden. Keeping our dogs happy and busy feels like a big task but it can be easier than you think. I've put together some of my favourite ideas that hopefully will make it easier for you and your dog during this time.
Scentwork This is top of my list. I've even set up a Facebook Scentwork group where I'll upload free Scentwork tutorials and challenges. Scentwork is mentally tiring for dogs and it allows them to put their best asset to work, their nose! It's a great activity for all the family to take part in and your dog will love it.
This can be done easily at home or in the garden by hiding treats for your dog to find or you can make up your own little scent kit. Get in touch if you'd like to take part in my free scentwork group.
Give your dog lots of tasty, long-lasting chews over this time. Our dogs are likely to be picking up on the anxiety of the household and chewing is a natural way that a dog can relieve stress. Giving your dog something long-lasting to chew on can keep them entertained for some time. My favourite go-to chews are cow hooves, cows/goats ears and pizzles. I especially love cow hooves because you can stuff them with food and freeze them.
Mix Up Your Walks
As we are limited to one walk a day, mix up your walks, this is a great time to change your routine, walk in a different direction. This will help to keep the walk interesting for you and your dog too. This is a perfect time to practise some loose lead walking too.
If you don't own some fun agility equipment then you can create your own with things that you have lying around the house, garage or in the shed. Jumps can be made out of a pile of books and a broom, weaves can be made up of several bamboo canes. Remember. safety first if you are going to do your own agility, make jumps nice and low, best to avoid all risks of injury.
Food Puzzles I'm sure many of you have lots of food puzzles that you've bought for your dog, rotate the ones that you have and give your dog a food puzzle once a day, either at mealtimes or just for fun. We sometimes set all of Luna's food puzzles up, it's fun to see which puzzle she attempts first. Food puzzles provide mental stimulation and can help to relieve boredom.
Dog food puzzles can be made using lots of things lying about at home, just go through your recycling box. Follow Kirby Dog Service on Instagram, she's giving us some amazing ideas for enrichment during this time.
I've included a link to some blogs for DIY puzzles,
Teach Your Dog To Balance On Objects Teaching your dog to balance on different objects helps to build muscle and helps your dog to learn body awareness. It can make walks more fun too as you can do some parkour on logs, benches and different surfaces. At home, you can use an upturned washing up basin, a firm pillow, a book or a stool. There are lots of different exercises that you can do, front paws on, back paws on, four paws on.
Hide and Seek
Hide and seek is a fun game for everyone involved but it's also great for recall training. Have one person hold the dog whilst someone else hides, then shout your dog's names and their recall cue and let the dog go and seek! Increase the difficulty as the dog gets better at the game.
I'm sure many of us have a dog who doesn't enjoy being groomed or going in the bath or having eye drops put in. With a little more time on our hands, we can use it to train our dogs that grooming etc is fun and rewarding. Give them a little more choice in the matter, trust me investing in this will make your life easier. It can help to make grooming and vet visits more pleasant and safer.
Find out a little more here, https://www.kathysdao.com/articles/husbandry-how-tos/
Many of us will be doing lots of walks with our dogs on the lead so it's a perfect time to revisit your dogs recall training. The majority of my enquiries come from clients who say their dogs biggest problem is lack of recall. I recommend ordering yourself a recall whistle and get to work. There are lots of fun games that you can play to help with your dogs recall without using a whistle.
Here is my blog post on how to train a whistle recall https://www.milneandmuttdogtraining.co.uk/post/recall-whistle-training
Sleep I firmly believe that we don't give our dogs enough time to sleep. We live in a world where we are told to walk our dogs at least twice a day but I believe that dogs don't need two walks a day every day. Take the pressure off yourself and allow your dog the time to just relax and have uninterrupted sleep. I'm sure they will enjoy the change of routine and a little more downtime.
This is one of my favourite things to do with Luna, teaching her a new trick or polishing all the tricks that she already knows. YouTube is full of great trainers that have step by step tutorials on how to train lots of different tricks. Set yourself a challenge and see how many tricks you can cover before we all head back to work.
Most importantly remember playing with your dog releases all those happy hormones, I know for us, Luna is one of the things that brightens up our day at the moment. Make the most of the extra time that you have with your dog.